Cicilline Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Close Russia Today Loophole

Jun 7, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI), who serves as co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC), and U.S. Congressman Matthew Gaetz (R-FL) today introduced legislation to close a loophole in foreign agent registration requirements that Russia Today exploited extensively during last year’s presidential election.

“Foreign propaganda dressed up as a legitimate news outlet is still foreign propaganda,” said Congressman Cicilline. “In this era of social media and a 24/7 news cycle, the American people have a right to know when a hostile foreign government is sending propaganda right into their living room. This bill will help ensure that Vladimir Putin’s regime can’t spread fake news with such ease ever again.”

The Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act will provide the U.S. Department of Justice with increased investigative authority to identify and prosecute entities that seek to unlawfully influence the political process. Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), individuals, groups, and organizations advocating on behalf of a foreign government are required to register with, and report their activities to the Department of Justice so that the American public may more clearly identify foreign propaganda or other disinformation campaigns. Some organizations, including the Kremlin’s propaganda arm Russia Today, have been able to avoid FARA registration requirements by structuring their business operations to appear autonomous from foreign governments. 

The bill introduced today by Cicilline and Gaetz will allow the DOJ to compel the production of documents from any person or entity as part of an investigation relevant to compliance with FARA.  Currently, the DOJ would only have the authority to compel the production of such documentation after initiating a civil or criminal proceeding.

In January, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released an unclassified assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Among its findings, the ODNI concluded that Russia Today actively collaborated with WikiLeaks and served as a critical part of the Kremlin’s “state-run propaganda machine” that disseminated disinformation accusing Secretary Clinton of poor health and ties to Islamic extremism.

A copy of the Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act can be viewed by clicking here.